The last 2.8 years were very uncertain of if, how, and when I could continue my travels. Once the international borders were closed I thought and hoped that within a few months I could continue with my travelling. Now in hindsight that was wishful thinking. But during the time, due to the uncertainty, I wasn’t really thinking of updating my blog. As such, I’ll give a quick run through and then Fast Forward to the present (Spoiler Alert: I’m no longer in Australia).
Thus, in order to get you up to speed, have a quick look into How to Talk Australians 😜:
After the Covid-19 pandemic also started in Australia, nobody knew what’s going to happen. In particular when we had so called lockdowns (the first in Brisbane), it wasn’t clear where we could go or stay. As such I registered for WorkAway. The idea is that you work 4-5 h/day for 5 days a week and get free food and accommodation. As such, at least I can save some money, until the end of this issue (at least I thought so), have a place to stay and something to do. And as I was still on my tourist visa (which lasted for another 4 months), I’m not violating it, as I’m not getting paid money.
My first host was in her mid 50s. She just started a new business (in her home) to build a resort for men with midlife crisis. I stayed with Tom, another German backpacker, and she said there’s plenty of work to do for the next 6-8 weeks. So we thought ok cool, that sounds good. The house was on the hills overlooking Surfers Paradise and had huge, glamorous rooms. In the evening she was laying in her lounger and was watching Andrew Bolt on SkyNews (until then I didn’t know who he was, but now I get the context – maybe later more to the Murdoch media dominance in Australia, UK, and US – and what it does to politics). Anyway, after a few days we already realised that she struggled, as she realised, due to the restrictions, there won’t be any clients soon. As such, she won’t have any income, and so we only got the cheapest food (not a problem, as long as we’re not starving). Then after a few days after we finished building a reclining wall, she announced all of a sudden that we had to leave. She had some excuse that her daughter was coming and she needed to isolate (but at the same token, also we could isolate with her). Well that was a big surprise for us, and we needed to find a solution quickly. She offered us to stay on her boat for some time (for a quick high amount of money), but we were so upset, that we declined to do so.
As such, she dropped us of at the nearest train station and so we went to Surfers Paradise at Good Friday. Perfect, everything was closed and we had no food (luckily one 7/11 was open which helped us over night). And we found a shitty hostel. The hostel road/area of Surfers Paradise is full of junkies. You can expect at least one police raid on that street per day. The hostel was super ugly, and so we decided to pay a bit more and go to another one down the road. Here we stayed for about 7 days or so, and we both found independently new hosts.
My second host was a family with two children living (almost) off the grid in an old Queenslander house. My first task was to sort some old firewood, and the mum asked me to take the son with me. He was about 10 years if I can recollect correctly and was already allowed to drive the ride-on mower. So, he was driving this thing less than 50m away from the house, and then we figured out that we forgot our working gloves to protect us from centipede bites (the local centipedes are a bit more aggressive than the European ones). Ok, I said, no problem, I just quickly go get them. When he said, no he can go. Ok, whatever. Then he hoped on the ride-on mower and wanted to drive back – 50m to the house and less than 10m uphill. I said no, you’re not driving. You’re going by foot. Then we had a bit of a discussion as I stood firm with my argument, that this bloody 2-stroke engine is just an air polluter (and I explained to him than 1l of fuel generates 3kg of CO2). I could gather that he didn’t take this well. Anyway, he walked up and down and got the gloves. That was on my first working day. In the afternoon I played a bit with the girl, she must have been 4 years old, but ok because I’ve free time and I do it on my own will. It doesn’t mean that I’m also the baby sitter in the evening, I had other things to do. Well after a few days the mother told me that I can’t stay longer (even we agreed to a few weeks), as her boy shows bad behavioural symptoms since I’m here. She stated irreconcilable cultural differences, and said they had already a hard time with him in the past year. Well, I didn’t know that, and you told me I should take him with me. But you didn’t tell me at the same time, that he can do everything he wants and I must treat him with velvet gloves. Would have been good to know that the whole family must follow him. Afterwards the father told me that the ride-on mower was the best thing he ever bought for him. How the heck could I know that this is a bloody therapeutic tool for him? The next day I was back to Brisbane.
After about one week in another hostel I finally found my host for the next 4 months. I was in contact with Michelle, one of the 5 daughters of Mary. Mary’s home was an old holiday home, but since a few years and her husbands dead, she lives there permanently. It needed some renovations, and so I used my handy skills for the next 4 months. Michelle, as a tough business woman, she insisted that I only get 2 meals and should at work 5h/day. At is the operative word here 😉. Mary meant it too good with me, and cooked for me two meals per day. As such, I was definitely not starving. She was happy with my work, and Michelle was happy that her Mum was happy, and I was happy that I had a place to stay until end of August 2020.
Coincidentally, Michelle is also a registered migration assistant. As such, she helped me at lot with my Visa issues. First she advised me which other visa I could apply to. As it’s not easy to get off a tourist visa. So, with the help of the German Church I lodged something like a special cultural visa. It would have only lasted for three months, and it was never processed, but this just meant, I was on a bridging visa and could stay in the country. Then after some legislative changes I could directly apply for a Global Talent Independent visa (due to my educational background and the sector I’m working in – if I’m working). After I got all my documents, I was eventually granted a permanent residency in record time (as the borders were still closed). All I’m saying is Michelle was of invaluable help for me in the last almost 3 years. It was just by coincidence that I met her family because the other two hosts kicked me out, and only shows with each ending there are always new opportunities. We are still friends and I just said goodbye to her a few weeks ago in Sydney.
Back in 2020 several things needed to be fixed at Mary’s home: balcony, gardening (polished it from a mud field into something nice, yes I know we needed to cut some trees), painting (if Australians talk about renovation, they actually mean appearance. It’s all appearance for their ‘glorified tents’), cleaned the garage (took me almost 4 weeks, yes Mary is a bit of a hoarder, and doesn’t need the garage, as she doesn’t drive), closed off the garage, and designed a new kitchen, after the old one was flooded by a dodgy plumber (Michelle needed to get him to court to get the money out of him. I mean even I could see, that the threads don’t fit on the tap, and the next morning we had a creek running from the kitchen into the garage, and all the old carpet was so wet, we needed to lift it up and put it on landfill). The kitchen was finally realised this year by some other WorkAwayers. The chosen kitchen top from Nicole (Michelle’s sister) was in the end more expensive than the whole kitchen from IKEA. The neighbour Ivan also renovated his unit. Just for fun as he said, so he could get away from home, as he was already retired. And as Michelle told me, within 6 months, he made a profit of about 100k AUD, just by a bit of painting from bunnings. I still can’t comprehend why Australians only look for the facade, but not what’s behind (in that case, behind the plasterboard, literally nothing – there’s no substance at all).
The Gold Coast is a big retirement city. There’s not much today, if you’re not into the beach lifestyle. Thus, I got quite bored over time, as also without car, you’re not really going somewhere. Furthermore, Queensland closed it’s state borders to New South Wales, because as Jeannette Young said: “We do everything we can to keep Queenslanders save.” Well, if that would be the case, why are you not closing all the beaches permanently? More people are dying from cancer each and every year, and in particular from melanoma you’ve more than 1,000 deaths per year. That measure would be quite unpopular wouldn’t it, but it would fall into the category of “we do everything”!? But as there were state elections looming in 2020, the plebs liked it that the state(!) border to the bad Sydneysiders was closed; in particular the ones in Far North Queensland (because it doesn’t affect their daily lives). That’s just one aspect of Australian local patriotism. After Annastacia (the Premier of QLD) defended the election, Jeannette was promoted to Governor of Queensland. Well done Jeannette!
Getting into the Gold Coast hinterland without a car is nearly impossible. In end of May 2020 I rented a car for one day from the Gold Coast airport. As all flights were cancelled there was plenty supply and no demand, and as such it was super cheap. I drove up to Springbrook National Park and did the Warrie Circuit Walk. It was nice walk, down the valley and then up on the other side. The weather was good in the morning, and I passed several small to medium waterfalls along the way. From the lookout I could even see the high buildings along Surfers Paradise. Afterwards, I drove a little bit further to Mount Mumdjin Lookout. But the weather changed and it was overcasted with a low cloud ceiling. As such, I couldn’t see Mount Warning. On the way back I made a small detour around Advancetown lake (which is the water supply for the Gold Coast) to Hinze Dam. Then I hit the motorway and followed the signs back to Gold Coast airport, as I rent the car from there. In normal times that wouldn’t be an issue. But not when Annastacia is in power and is bitching with Gladys (the former premier of NSW, which is no longer the Premier because she has a problem with corruption, or not – but again that’s another story in itself). As the route signs went via New South Wales (only a tiny bit, as the airport is directly situated at the state border), I found myself directly at the road check point at the QLD border. Sure, the SES volunteer was upset I don’t provide an exception. Then, another SES volunteer was talking to me, but realised he need a real cop to solve that problem. After I explained the situation to him I was allowed to enter QLD again…thanks Annastacia.
Then mid of June 2020 I rented a bicycle (the bike was as actually more expensive than renting a car – so ridiculous in times of climate change). I cycled along Currumbin Creek to the end of Currumbin Valley Cougal Cascades car park and from there a steep firetrail Cougal Track car park. This is directly at the QLD/NSW border, and as the road comes from the NSW side, legally I might not have been allowed to walk on the ridge line, but technically I’m walking exactly along the border (so go figure). But as the cops were only interested in cars and have been already busy on those checkpoints, everybody could easily cross the QLD/NSW border by foot. That just shows the whole hypocrisy of border closures. It’s beyond comprehension for us Europeans, that you have closed borders (I mean even closed borders within a country). The track follows the ridge line. You easily reach Mount Cougal East, before you have a bit of exposure to get to Mount Cougal West. Back along the same way and into Queensland again.
The bicycle rent shop was directly opposite to Currumbin Creek. The old railway bridge over Currumbin Creek from the former South Coast railway line was converted into a pedestrian bridge. The former South Coast railway line went all the way down to Tweed Heads, but was closed and dismantled in order to have space to build the Pacific Highway on parts of it. Now with the Olympic Games approaching, they are discussing to extend the current railway line from Varsity Lakes to the Gold Coast airport in Coolangatta (which is basically next to Tweed Heads). Currently there are only buses south of that (and a new single tram line in the city of Gold Coast).
At end of June I did a trip to Brisbane in order to do my English proficiency test. It was the first English test since I left high school (then) 18 years ago. And as I was always super keen in learning languages, this just went smoothly (this sentence contains traces of sarcasm 😉). On my way back I visited Mount Coot-tha (yes, I took the bus because of time restrictions).
Finally beginning of July 2020, Michelle got an exemption and drove from Sydney to the Gold Coast to visit here mum. We all three together did a day trip to Mount Tamborine (that’s the usual tourist stuff you do, when you want to see Gold Coast hinterland). I did the Sandy Creek Circuit to Cameron Falls, while Michelle stayed with Mary at The Knolls lookout. Mary was bored by the scenery. Later on we had to join Mary into the Star Casino at the Gold Coast, as she wanted to meet her friends and do a bit of gambling, where I was bored by the scenery.
A few days later in early July 2020, Michelle and I, went off to hike to Mount Greville in the hinterland. We started driving in the middle of the night (it’s a 2h from the Gold Coast), so we could enjoy the sunrise on the summit. We went up the Palm Gorge Track, which was a wide ridge and easy to follow (also in the night). The summit lookout wasn’t any good, as there were too many trees around. And as we were still early, we actually enjoyed the sunrise on the way down towards Waterfall Gorge. The Waterfall Gorge Track was a bit steeper in some sections. All in all it was a beautiful winter day.
Michelle and I also hiked the cream track from Tullebudgera. It is the shortcut to the Springbrook National Park, and ends near the Warrie Circuit. (Unfortunately, I can’t find any photos of that day and must have lost them. Just figured out today that there are about 30 numbers missing in my photo count 🤷🏼).
In early August 2020 I took the bus to Coolangatta. Then I walked (over the border) to Tweed Heads. The state border from New South Wales to Queensland was still closed. The cops (as we call the police here 😅 ) only checked the cars (as usual). It was the time of the whale migration season. And as the weather was fine and I got lucky, I could even see some of them in the distance slapping their tails.
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